Ballroom Dance > Tips for New Instructor?

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by EllaKins, Nov 12, 2017.

  1. EllaKins

    EllaKins New Member

    Hi guys. I am starting a new position as an instructor soon, and was looking for some tips. I've never taught before, so this is my first teaching job.

    Any kinds of tips are appreciated!!
  2. ballroomdancertoo

    ballroomdancertoo Well-Known Member

    I assisted my instructor with her students. the first thing she did with a new student is watch them dance, if they have danced before....if not she begins with the very basic steps. always collect payment before, a lot of times the students forget and leave and then she has to remind them to pay the next time. anyway, my two bits! good luck!
  3. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Did not the person who trained you give you a list of things to cover ?
    Bailamosdance and IndyLady like this.
  4. IndyLady

    IndyLady Well-Known Member

    I'm hoping the answer is yes, and OP is crowd-sourcing for more insight from a wider audience.

    My tip: figure out, or even better, ASK, how your students learn best. i.e. auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learner. I can't tell you how many times I've had to tell instructors that watching them do something is completely pointless for me if you haven't first told me what to do (auditory), then either danced it with me or manipulated my body (kinesthetic). You may feel awesome during your demo, but for some of us that wasn't instructive, it was just a chance for the teacher to use part of my lesson doing a performance.
    Kaus Lee, Leanna, RiseNFall and 3 others like this.
  5. EllaKins

    EllaKins New Member

    More the second one! Just crowd sourcing for info because I'm new and excited, and looking for more.
  6. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    IndyLady's suggestion is excellent. I am quite up front about my inability to get much from watching bodies move through space, particularly if there is rotation involved, but not all students are going to speak up when they cannot follow something. If you are teaching a class, you need to present things in multiple ways. I also find that more experienced teachers break things into smaller chunks and repeat more.

    I have had newer teachers on occasion say, "I'll get back to you about this on the next lesson" when they couldn't figure out how to explain or correct something. To me, that is infinitely better than torturing both of us with something that isn't working. It's going to happen, so think about how you are going to handle it ahead of time.
  7. AirColor

    AirColor Member

    Here's my advice from teaching social dances (swing, wcs, latin, etc.). Can't say much about ballroom but I can't imagine it being too different..

    - Smile, be excited, make students feel comfortable to be in the room with you
    - Loud voice/amplifier
    - Allowing flexibility in lesson plans depending on the level of students/learning speed
    - Don't talk too much. After necessary instructions analyze the students for common mistakes.
    - Beginners generally want clarity on what you're supposed to do. More advanced dancers want options on what you can do.
    - Rotate partners often
    - Have some of your advanced dancer friends in your lesson to help ease the load of teaching (when you first begin teaching). They don't need to teach but they can give your students, and you, some critical feedbacks and help you grow.

    And most importantly...

    SIMPLIFY!! I can't count how many lessons I've been to where the instructor confuses his/her students by adding their own extra flair, teaching multiple components at once and never breaking them down, teaching a more complicated variation before teaching the simpler one first. Simplifying things will actually allow your students to understand the dance better and will make it easier for you as you progress.
  8. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    This is the key to "teaching " . I have preached this for many moons .
    One other detail; a little humour goes a long way to relax a class lesson .
    Dean, Caroline Skipper and IndyLady like this.
  9. Dr Dance

    Dr Dance Well-Known Member

  10. Lai Lai

    Lai Lai Member

    Don't want to sound rude, but... formal education in dance pedagogy would be the best thing to start with.
  11. EllaKins

    EllaKins New Member

    Lol of course, but I mean outside of that. That part is obvious, looking for more real world things.
  12. RiseNFall

    RiseNFall Well-Known Member

    I hope this would be covered, but just in case...

    Our brains process information given in the positive better, and it's not just a "feel good" thing. For example, if you tell a child to stay on the sidewalk, it works better than saying, "don't go in the street". So, even if you need to something along the order of "don't do xyz", be sure to also fill in what the student SHOULD be doing. And if you can avoid the "don't" part, even better. ;)
    Requiem likes this.
  13. ballroomdancertoo

    ballroomdancertoo Well-Known Member

    I think Peter Maxwell instruction video was like "do the figure you always do. then now try this way. okay, now try the old way and compare. I learned a lot about the difference in feeling."
  14. EllaKins

    EllaKins New Member

    Oh I like that.

    I've also heard 'that was good, but let's try it this way next time'
  15. FancyFeet

    FancyFeet Well-Known Member

    Personally, I hate that. Because what you're really saying is that I didn't do it right and that it was not good... so just tell me that, then tell me how to fix it. I don't need to be patronized, I just need clarity.

    (Unless you're working with an advanced student and playing with different styling options where it might have actually been good, but you are after different.)

    For me, I like to hear the why. Rote memorization has never really worked for me, but if something is put in context - so why I need to do it, or what could happen if I don't - helps me remember. I'm also pretty self-directed with my learning, so it was important to me to have a teacher that would let me discover some things on my own, and who left me the space to experiment (and sometimes fail) without immediately jumping in to fix.

    I think the biggest thing is to develop a set of tools - different ways to explain, different methods of teaching, etc. - and to tailor them to your students. Doing that means you'll be able to teach anyone, and not be one of those teachers who only connect with people who happen to learn the way they like to teach.
    danceronice, IndyLady and AirColor like this.
  16. Kaus Lee

    Kaus Lee New Member

    Well I would start with the fundamentals. Even if the person has experience then I raise their level in the fundamentals. I use humor and I keep things light. They need to enjoy the experience. I make sure to align my teaching with their goals in mind and I teach thinking of the future that I will guide them towards. Listen to what they say and what they don't say. Meaning body language will also tell you a lot about them. Inspire them and help them grow, not just in their dancing but in who they are. That's what I believe a teacher is meant to do. All my students are my children regardless of age. I would have also talked about the visual, auditory and kinesthetic people but I saw someone touched on that already. Good Luck and I wish you the best.
  17. IndyLady

    IndyLady Well-Known Member

    Yes yes yes to the bolded. I guess I'm fine otherwise with the "ok, but now do this too" approach as long as it doesn't come off as condescending. Because I have super sensitive radar for when I'm being treated with kid gloves.

    This is a good example of being able to tailor your teaching to each individual student. I like the why, but unless you can state it in one short simple sentence beforehand, I need to know *what* to do first and then do it - sometimes I will figure out the why on my own as a result, or else it will sink in more profoundly since I just experienced the effect. I really despise standing through long lectures before we can get on to actually dancing what was just introduced or explained.


    There's some good stuff in this paragraph and a few things that made me wince. I have one instructor that likes to joke about "dance babies", but otherwise, no, I am not your child so please don't view me that way. Especially if you are younger than I am. Especially if you don't actually have kids and don't really know what that means (I don't know if you do or don't, just sayin').
    FancyFeet likes this.
  18. Kaus Lee

    Kaus Lee New Member

    Fair enough IndyLady. You are entitled to your opinion, however I don't think I was clear in my context so I will try to explain it better. When I say "All my students are my children regardless of age." I mean that I care for all of them and treat them the same, not picking favorites to showcase or offer things to just a favorite student. It means that my goal is to help all of them become better people and help their lives progress. It means that I'm a guide to all of them, hence the saying "lead by example." It does not mean talk to an adult like they are a child.

    As for how i view people, I view everyone, including children, as if there is always something to learn. I go into every situation with my cup empty and try to get it filled so I even take your statement to make me realize I wasn't clear. My apologies for that and thank you for helping me realize I need to work on my communication.
  19. entheos

    entheos New Member

    I don't know too much about teaching, but I always liked the ones that come alive whenever they have the opportunity to express their craft and spread the knowledge to others.

    Impassioned - Filled with or showing great emotion.

    Like that topic that you can talk about for hours.

    Like being immersed in that activity that makes you forget to eat or sleep.

    Sway the hearts of your students by swaying your own heart. Students are going in there with their cups empty. It's your job to be able to fill your own cup and overflow into the cups of others. That way both you and your students are expanding, thriving, and spiraling upwards.

    Not only is dancing fun, but it's also challenging and rewarding. Like a baby learning to walk. I felt really happy whenever I got a certain technique down. That sense of expansion or growth is what makes us feel alive.

    My instructor has kids and even after a long tiring practice session for her own competitions, she's still always excited to teach me.
  20. Br0nze

    Br0nze Active Member

    Congratulations on becoming an instructor!

    A lot of the replies hit nails on the head regarding what should be done. I will try to add my two cents in without sounding too repetitive, though some things that have already been said I too will say. But here's the thing: a teacher is someone who never says anything once. Also, if this is something your mentor has already told you, also apologies.

    First and foremost, be reflective in your practice. If you haven't already, come to the understanding that learning is a process. This goes for your students, and for you as well. Emphasize this understanding to your students, repeat that phrase often, and model this behavior so they can feel comfortable on their journey. That being said, understand that the same applies to you. You will also need to be kind with yourself, as well as with those you teach.

    Come to the understanding that teaching is a process also. This goes hand in hand with the first point, but it's something we often forget. No one is born a natural teacher, regardless of what others say. Some people have a natural inclination towards it, same as some people have an inclination towards dance, but without pedagogy, codified strategies, and clear terminology even the most impassioned individual is useless. One can be a championship dancer and a lousy teacher, same as one can never win Blackpool and be a brilliant educator. That rant aside, as you would be kind with your students, be kind to yourself. You will learn from each lesson, successful or failed, and you will learn how to explain things better as time goes on. You will gain that clarity of explanation only from explaining it incorrectly a million times, same as your students will finally do the action correctly only after doing it incorrectly a million times.

    Find clear terminology. "Ballroom dancing comes down to three things: posture, weight change(s), and frame. Everything else is commentary." I opened with that line every [first] lesson I gave. I them defined those terms: posture (the relationship of your spine to the rest of your joints), weight changes (steps from one foot to the other, completely shifting your weight from one leg to the other), and frame (the relationship of your elbows, if you will, to your spine), and not only modeled the behaviors but adjusted the students to feel them as well. I am going to emphasize this next part: it took me a few years to get down to those understandings and those words. Until I codified these terms, I struggled to explain concepts.

    Read, read, read; learn, learn, learn; ask questions, ask questions, ask questions; listen, listen, listen. This one goes with the above advice. Terminology is important in dance. "Ball of foot" and "Toe" are two different terms for a reason; "Body Rise" and "Foot Rise" come from two different anatomical parts and achieve different things; "Sway" and "Shape" are not the same, etc.... decide that these things are insanely important to you, and that you need to know them, because you do. The more you use these terms, the more your students use these terms, the more of a common language you and them speak, the easier it will be to figure out what went wrong, what went right, etc. Not only that, but the more manuals you read, the more books you read, the more lectures you attend, the more lessons and trainings you take, the better you'll get. Plus, haring other people explain concepts helps you codify terminology and helps you clarify your own confusions, and the more clear you are, the more successful your lessons are, the more successful your students are. On that note, speak with your students and ask them questions, check for understanding. If you're being open and candid with them, they should be open and candid with you. Also: get your hands on general education pedagogy books. You don't have to become a teacher, but teaching philosophies and strategies do help convey dance info too.

    Keep things simple. This kind of goes with the clear terminology concept, but often times we as instructors can get overzealous and excited when a student succeeds and teach them something they do not really need simply because they got that one other thing right, or we over-complicate an explanation or give a long-winded answer when there wasn't a real need, or we plan three objectives for a lesson and stubbornly want to get to all three when one concept covered in depth will suffice. Keeping things simple helps you, helps your students, and in the long-run helps make progress easier and faster. This goes hand in hand with having a reflective approach, and with speaking with students about what went well, what needs work, and what doesn't.

    Conference, and get outside eyes (observations) in on your lessons. So, conference with your students. Take a half a lesson sometime, or a full one even, or time after lessons, to discuss and reflect. Tick off boxes that you accomplished, plan for the next session; the more involved a student is in their growth and progress the more likely they are to take pride in it and want to come back. It also shows you care about their growth and progress, and gives them ownership. It fosters the relationship between you and the student, and it's an easy way to have a road map for both of you. Observations are invaluable, though not always needed as you get longer and longer on your teaching track. As a starting teacher, I had to be observed by my boss and my colleagues, and then we discussed what worked and what didn't. An outside eye is super helpful, and again, hearing someone else explain a concept helps you solidify your own understandings. Maybe these are built into the environment of the studio for which you work, maybe not.

    Those are the ones I can think off at the moment. As I said, some of these have been mentioned, but I hope my two cents are also worthy of at least consideration.

    Congratulations again, and best of luck on your dance journey!

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